TORONTO, June 26, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Language commissioners, ombudsmen and language rights experts from around the world are gathered in downtown Toronto this morning for the sixth annual conference of the International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC). The conference coincides with the 50th anniversary of Canada’s Official Languages Act and the United Nations’ declaration of 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages.

The theme of the conference, to run June 26-27 at the Arcadian (401 Bay Street), is “Protecting Linguistic Minorities, Building Stronger Societies.” Panelists from six continents will explore the pivotal role of ombudsmen and language commissioners in the protection of minority-language communities, and as indispensable tools for societal integration, peace building and conflict prevention in multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic societies.

Roger D. Jones, legal consultant for the National Chief’s Office, Assembly of First Nations of Canada, is set to deliver the opening speech. Other distinguished speakers will include Raymond Théberge, Official Languages Commissioner of Canada; Dr. Mali Nomfundo, acting Chief Executive Officer of the Pan South African Language Board; Michael Conor Cook, National Inuit Language Coordinator, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; and Slaviša Mladenović, Language Commissioner of Kosovo. The final keynote speaker on June 27 will be Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner. 

Panel discussions featuring experts from government, non-governmental organizations and academia will address such topics as Indigenous language preservation, the effective representation of linguistic minorities through independent institutions, challenges and perspectives of linguistic duality in Canada, and the limits and opportunities of respecting linguistic diversity in multilingual societies.

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé, whose office assumed the role of the province’s French language services commissioner under new legislation as of May 1, is hosting the conference, keeping a longstanding commitment of the former French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario. “It is an honour and an enormous privilege to welcome my new IALC colleagues to Toronto at a moment of strong public interest in linguistic rights in Ontario,” Mr. Dubé said.

Rónán Ó Domhnaill, IALC Chair and Irish Language Commissioner, said: “This conference is a significant one for the IALC as the organization continues to strive to make its voice heard worldwide. There should be a lot of interesting views expressed over these two days, especially considering the debate this past year regarding language rights and the role of language commissioners in Ontario itself. I look forward to a wonderful conference most graciously hosted by the Ombudsman Dubé.”

Other highlights:

  • As 2019 was declared the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations, the conference will highlight the activities of institutions that promote and protect Indigenous languages.
  • On the second day of the conference, the IALC will release a book of contributions from its members and subject-matter experts, entitled Constitutional Pioneers: Language Commissioners and the Protection of Official, Minority and Indigenous Languages. The book highlights the critical role played by language commissioners in protecting and promoting minorities and Indigenous languages around the world.
  • The IALC has invited representatives from countries that are developing and exploring systems and legislative frameworks for establishing their own minority language protection agencies to attend the conference to benefit from best practices and contribute to the discussion.

About the International Association of Language Commissioners:
Founded in 2013, the IALC is an independent body made up of language commissioners and ombudsmen from around the world. Members include Ireland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Kosovo, Flanders, Wales and Canada, including Ontario, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The IALC’s mission is to support language commissioners and advance the rights of linguistic minorities, equality and diversity by sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices, and cooperating with like-minded organizations that embrace the promotion and protection of human and language rights.

View the full conference program here:

Aussi disponible en français

For more information, contact:
Linda Williamson, Director of Communications, 416-586-3426

Emmanuelle Bleytou
Lead, Strategic Communications
French Language Services Unit
416-847-1515 ext.107